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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Kagami-iwa, The Mirror Rock"

Kagami-iwa, the Mirror Rock

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The Mirror Rock and Shirumichu-reijo

     N 26 18.769E 127 57.574

Kagami-iwa, The Mirror Rock - Hamahiga Island

Not too far from the Shirumichu Cave is a place that just leaves you in awe. The large slanted rock you see above is called 'Kagami-iwa' meaning 'The Mirror Rock'. It has a striking resemblance to one of the most sacred sites here on Okinawa, Seifa Utaki. It is here that the land owner, Mr Nohina, believes are the images of two of the most sacred figures in Ryukyuan Mythology: Shirumichu and Amamichu, male and female deities said to be the originators of the Ryukyu Islands. This should be of no surprise considering Hamahiga is purported to be one of the dwelling places of the first ancestors. At first, the images are difficult to make out, but if you look carefully – and with a little imagination, you can see two figures embedded on the side of the wall. To get a visual orientation, click the following links in sequence: Picture 1 (both images), Picture 2 (both images and Mr. Nohina), Picture 3 (Shirumichu), Picture 4 (Amamichu). According to Mr. Nohina, the optimal time to see the apparitions is generally between May and September around 2 o'clock where the afternoon sun reflects against 'The Mirror Rock' at just the right angle, revealing the ghostly images.

So why do people come here? Probably for most, it is merely out of curiosity. But according to Mr. Nohina, couples do come here to pray for a long and healthy companionship. Some come here to pray for fertility (it can be said that the image of Amamichu is holding a baby). For whatever the reason, people do come...but this wasn't always the case. Mr. Nohina explains that residents long ago on Hamahiga avoided this place because the images (thought to be ghost) would frighten them away.

Other places to see. On the same grounds you will see what Mr. Nohina refers to as the 'Turtle Cave', named for its turle-like head. It is a very tiny cave and inside, are strategically placed crystal stones that illuminate when the morning sun hits the cave entrance. The following link is a photograph he took during the illumination. See photo. He says between 8 and 9 o'clock is when the 'magic' happens.

Not too far from the 'Mirror Rock' you will see another impressive rock wall that will amaze you. Click here to view. And further up the trail is a carved stone stairway that takes you up high where you can get a great view of Hamahiga Island from atop.

The Endless Questions. So how does a place like this come to existence with so little attention in the public eye, especially being so close to the Shirumichu Cave, one of the holiest sites on Okinawa? Mr. Nohina is originally from Miyako Island. He moved in 2002 in search for peace – the same kind of peace you would find...let's say, on Kudaka Jima. After a long search, he had found this place on Hamahiga, purchased the land from the previous owner, and renamed the entire area Shirumichu-reijo (Shirumichu Spiritual Place). This takes an incredible amount of energy, passion, and wealth to do something like this. But Mr. Nohina is a Okinawan historical enthusiast. He breathes Okinawan folklore. After doing much research on the area, he decided to open it up to the public in 2007.

When asked, do noros (Okinawan female priestesses) come here to pray? He eluded that many would probably not out of pride because they never heard of this place before. This is understandable. It would be kind of embarrassing not to know about a place of this magnitude being so close to the Shirumichu Cave, one of most revered religious sites a noro can pilgrimage to. One can conclude that this area must have been a highly kept secret for a very long time — which is hard to imagine cause it's literally within walking distance from the first Torii Gate of the Shirumichu Cave. And what is the connection with Uruma City's Board of Education, normally in charge of explaining such places within their jurisdiction? Official references, if any exist, have not yet been found. The investigation continues...

Conclusion. So what exactly is 'The Mirror Rock' and Shirumichu-reijo? No doubt the landscape is incredible and has 'Animism' written all over it. And being so close to a sacred site here on Okinawa, it would be hard to imagine a place like this not having any spiritual significance. You may find no answers here, just one man's belief. But when you see 'The Mirror Rock', you just can't help...but wonder.

Hours: Daily, 10am to 6pm. Recommend you call before you go. The estate is run by Mr.Nohina and one other person, and possibly may not be available during certain times for unforeseeable reasons. (If you wish to see the crystal stone illuminate inside the small 'Turtle Cave' then you will have to arrange that with Mr. Nohina. Normally the illumination happens between 8 and 9 am).

Fee: 200 Yen per person (You will receive a 200 Yen coupon in return which gives you a free ice tea or 200 yen coupon towards another refreshment higher in price).

Phone Number: 098 977 7157.

Recommendation. Mr. Nohina, does not speak any English. You may want to bring a friend fluent in Japanese should you have any questions, preferably one who knowledgeable in Okinawan Hogen and the Miyako dialect.

Directions.Hamahiga is accessible by vehicle. As soon as you cross the Kaichu-dori Bridge (on Highway 10 off the Katsuren Peninsula) you will see signs directing you to Hamahiga. Once you arrive on Hamahiga, you will make a left turn heading towards the eastern side of Hamahiga. After you pass the Amamichu Grave Site look for a toilet facility on the right. Take the first immediate right after this facility. This is the start of the Blue Vehicle Route (See map above). From there you will see signs directing you to 'Shirumichu' sacred site. Near the end of the route, you will see a large parking area near a boat port. The entrance to Mr. Nohina's residence is across this parking area. Look for a sign board pointing you the way.

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